Three Tips for First-Time Gen-Y Leaders


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The backlash for first-time business leaders, namely those from Gen Y who were born between roughly 1982 and 1994, is at the watercooler, at the company happy hour and even in the carpool home.

Often referred to as the “Me Generation,” members of Gen Y are scrutinized for their perceived sense of entitlement and their workplace tendency to “march to their own drummer.”

But this group is maturing into positions of leadership now and seemingly doing better than other cohorts, according to Capital One’s new Spark Business Barometer (based on a study of 400 U.S. small businesses done by APCO Insight in late June and early July)which found that Gen Y small-business owners are outperforming their older colleagues in some ways. Overall the report concluded that “millennials are helping to shape America’s business landscape with their energy, passion, and ideas.” The study also revealed that 62 percent of millennial small-business owners cited increased sales in the past six months as compared with 41 percent of small-business owners overall.

Chances are that many people not already working for a Gen Y leader may be soon because 45 percent of them plan to hire new employees in the next six months (as contrasted with 30 percent of other small-business owners).

While the enthusiasm and hard work kicked their success into high gear, they’ve had little leadership training to help them manage teams.

Following are three tips for first-time Gen Y leaders so they can achieve better outcomes in their newly realized role as managers:

1. Be humble.

Promoted to manage a team as a result of creating admirable outcomes? Now it’s time reach those goals on a bigger scale. It’s easy to walk into this situation with a “my way or highway” attitude.

But to earn respect and success as a new leader, it’s vital to project an everyone-in-the-trenches mentality. Humility is a great way to accomplish this goal. Be right beside entry-level employee helping to tackle the latest business challenge or holding a brainstorm with midlevel associates to help them through a complex issue.

Roll up the sleeves and consider no job is too big or too small to win the fearless-leader trophy and respect and trust.

2. Seek input. 

Newly promoted leaders aim to hit the ground running. Temper this way of thinking and ask if all the answers are self-evident. Is it possible for a leader to know all the dynamics or all the obstacles and challenges? Probably not.

Seek input from members of the new team about what they’ve been doing, their key priorities, what’s working and what’s not. Have the insights of the crowd digested before making any recommendations or decisions. The team will offer more admiration if the leader takes the time to listen before making changes.

3. Collaborate.

Especially for organizations that follow the traditional, hierarchical structure where employees work in silos, collaboration can feel like moving mountains. But a leader who embraces collaboration not just within his or her team, but also across teams, can have a major impact on business success.

Collaborative leaders know that they can fuse and leverage different viewpoints to create better solutions. It’s about taking a little bit of what’s right from “my idea,” a little bit of what’s right from “your idea” and bringing together all the best insights for more powerful results.


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